PACC’s Belgica says colleague’s call to probe Robredo’s COVID-19 aid “a personal opinion”

Robie de Guzman   •   April 2, 2020   •   729

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) commissioner and Spokesperson Greco Belgica on Thursday clarified that the call of one of his colleagues to probe Vice President Leni Robredo’s fund drive and relief operations amid the COVID-19 crisis was just “his personal opinion.”

In a statement, Belgica said Commissioner Manuelito Luna’s statement calling on the National Bureau of Investigation to prove Robredo for allegedly competing with the government’s efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 “was a personal opinion,” and “does not reflect the body’s sentiments.

“PACC is not asking anyone to investigate VP Leni Robredo. On the other hand, we are grateful to everyone who is helping the frontliners and the needy, including the VP,” he said.

“This is not the time for politicking. We are not concerned with any personality.  Our main concern is to make sure all the needy Filipinos get all the help they need the President promised,” he added.

He also said that the government’s immediate concern right now is to end the coronavirus pandemic, save lives, and rebuild the country and the lives of people after the crisis ends.

“Magtulungan po tayo. Maraming salamat po sa lahat ng tumutulong pati ang hindi lumalabas ng bahay. Tayo po ay nakakatulong sa ating pagsunod,” he said.

Robredo’s camp earlier slammed Luna’s statement, calling it “ridiculous” and “inappropriate” amid the COVID-19 threat.

Robredo’s spokesperson, Barry Gutierrez said VP Leni has mobilized groups and organized free transport to help health workers, government institutions, and ordinary Filipinos overcome the challenges they had to face due to the threat of infection.

“Anyone who insists that bringing much-needed assistance to hospitals, health workers, and poor Filipinos is somehow a ‘competition’ has absolutely no understanding of the gravity of the crisis we are all facing,” he said.

He assured that Robredo will continue to do all she can to help those in need in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

Robredo urges DepEd to realign budget to fund blended learning, address health concerns

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to realign the items in its budget to finance the distance learning program and respond to the needs of teachers and students as the country shifts to a blending learning system amid the pandemic.

In a letter dated August 10 addressed to DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, Robredo said the department must realign its P29-billion budget for rehabilitation of school buildings to procure gadgets and other equipment for distance learning and hazard pay for teachers.

“Around P29.5 billion was earmarked for the rehabilitation of school buildings for 2020. Given the shift to distance learning, many of these school buildings will be left without children to occupy them, thus deprioritizing the need for the rehabilitation of physical spaces,” she said.

“This amount can be used to procure the needed gadget and equipment for distance learning as well as address the health concerns of educators,” she added.

Robredo also noted that 61% or around 14 million households do not have access to the internet, adding that 74% or some 34,700 schools do not have the infrastructure to engage in online learning.

“While we understand that the department has set up the DepEd Commons learning platform for students to access lessons on their worn, we have received reports that only 7 million students have so far subscribed to this platform,” she said.

“This constitutes only 35% of the estimated 20 million public school students in the country,” she added.

Aside from access to internet connection and self-learning modules, Robredo also called on DepEd to protect the health and safety of educators by conducting mass testing, with testing and distribution of results done before classes start; providing sufficient fund for physical check-up and medicine; providing supplies such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers, among others; distributing hazard pay on time, and; establishing a system for the health and wellness needs of the teachers.

She said such initiatives can be funded by realigning DepEd’s P700 million budget allotted for teachers’ trainings.

“Many of these trainings have already, or will be, shifted to online modalities, thus freeing up resources that would otherwise have been used for travel and accommodations,” Robredo said.

“Rest assured that we understand the complexity of the challenges before us. We submit these insights and recommendations in the spirit of solidarity so that we may all, as one nation, build the better normal that our people deserve,” she added.

In response to the vice president’s recommendations, Briones said they cannot just make any significant realignment in their budget without consulting the Department of Budget and Management.

She also said they have allotted P9 billion fund for the reproduction of modules and that these have been forwarded to DepEd regional and division offices.

Briones likewise assured they have laid out programs to ensure the safety and health of educators as she reiterated that no face-to-face classes will be implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been paying hazard pay before COVID-19 for teachers who are in places na malayo ang sasakyan, malayo sa urban area. May standard kasi yan,” she said.

“Ulitin ko walang face-to-face until hangga’t walang vaccine yun ang sinasabi ni president; therefore, the teachers will not be exposed as a result of teaching. If they will be exposed, there might be other causes,” she added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

PACC to file raps against 36 PhilHealth execs

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 6, 2020

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) is set to file raps against 36 Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) officials next week amid the mass corruption issue in the agency.

According to PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica, they are preparing to file administrative charges and has recommended the dismissal of said officials. Belgica, meanwhile, did not identify the names of the involved officials.

Ipapasa na po namin sa Ombudsman next week, those cases na we believe are airtight cases na. Mga naimbestigahan na namin. Definitely po madadagdagan pa iyan as the investigation proceeds (Those we believe are airtight cases, we will submit it to the [Office of the Ombudsman] next week. There will definitely be more cases as the investigation proceeds),” he said.

Belgica claims that PhilHealth’s poor IT System had given way to corrupt officials to do anomalous activities. He also said corruption is done in various regions across the country which is similar to the ‘Pork Barrel Scam’ system.

So every region na nagta-transact ang mga ospital in different places, doon nagkakaroon ng areglo, doon nagkakaroon ng connivance. Ang bulk ng pera ng PhilHealth na nawawala, doon lumalabas (So in every region where hospitals do their transactions that’s where connivance happens. The bulk of PhilHealth’s money goes there),” he said.

Meanwhile, the PACC and Senator Christopher ‘Bong’ Go recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte to form a task force that will head the investigation on the PhilHealth corruption allegations.

PhilHealth has already denied the allegations saying the claims have no proper basis or evidence. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

OVP purchases P14-M worth of COVID-19 test kits developed by UP scientists

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 24, 2020

The office of Vice President (OVP) Leni Robredo has purchased P14 million worth of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test kits developed by the scientists from the University of the Philippines (UP).

In a statement, the OVP said the test kits will be delivered to hospitals certified as laboratories for COVID-19 testing. These include San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, V. Luna Hospital, and Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory.

The testing kits will help in conducting a total of 10,000 tests.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) previously said the UP-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) and Philippine Genome Center aim to increase test kit production as well as increase COVID-19 testing capacity per day.

“With the deployment of the test kits, UP-NIH will increase its capacity to run more tests per day, as each unit of the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit can run 25 tests at once and provide results within two hours,” the DOST said in the statement.

Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Genome Center Dr. Raul Destura said there is 8,000 to 10,000 tests produced daily and they aim to increase it by 16,000 tests per day by May 1. AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

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